Thursday, May 19, 2016

Forgive this odious debt

Earlier this week, John Key airily told the homeless to "talk to Work and Income". But it turns out that if you go to WINZ, they can't actually help, and the best they can do for people in a crisis is arrange to put them up in a motel for a week. But this isn't free assistance, no - WINZ treats it as a loan, and gouges it back out of its victims:

Homeless people are finding themselves thousands of dollars in debt to Work and Income (Winz) for money loaned to them to stay in motels.

Winz will loan people money to rent out a motel room as emergency housing, when there is nowhere else to put them.

People then have to repay the debt, and many say that is just not possible.


Diane moved in to a motel with her children, aged eight and three, on Friday. Winz was paying for it until next Monday.

The stay was costing $1600, which she said was all Winz would loan her. She has to pay it back at $16 a week.

$16 a week may not sound like much, but when you've got nothing, its the difference between eating and not eating.

So, basicly, WINZ fails to do its job of providing people in extreme need with a state house, then makes its victims pay for that failure. And at a top rate too, far more than you'd pay if you just booked a motel online. But because its not on their budget, and someone else eventually pays, WINZ has no incentive to ensure that its victims are getting value for money.

Action Station currently has a petition calling on Social Development Minister to forgive this odious debt. You can sign it here. And you should - because people shouldn't have to pay for WINZ's failure. Their job is to ensure that people in desperate need have a roof over their heads. And if they can't do that, and they have to resort to motels, they should pay the price.